tv Lectures in History CSPAN September 7, 2014 12:00am-1:16am EDT
[applause] >> each week, and american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the nation's college professors. you can watch the classes here every saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern. next, college of william and melvin ely and his students compared the participants, tactics, and lasting changes of the reconstruction and civil rights eras, exploring differences between the post-civil war south and what ely called the "second reconstruction" of the 1960s. this class was part of a course called, "african american history from emancipation to the present." it is about an hour and 10 minutes. >> here we are at the end of the semester and it strikes me as a good opportunity maybe to compare the reconstruction period that we started off talking about in this course with what some have called the
second reconstruction, which is the time of the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. let me tell you, first, what i mean by the first reconstruction and the second reconstruction. by the first, i mean in not only post-civil war reconstruction, i'm including also the civil war itself and all that took place during the war up through the end of radical reconstruction. the second reconstruction will be simply enough, the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. i won't carry my remarks any farther than that, i think. now, in talking about the two reconstructions, i'm going to have to use some broad generalizations of a type i'm not entirely comfortable with, for example i'll talk occasionally about the white south or the north or something like that and that covers up all kinds of complexities that, unfortunately, i don't have time to get into today. now, i'm going to start off by giving you a brief summary
narrative of the first reconstruction and then of the second reconstruction. each of these is about six sentences long. and i'm going to read slowly because i want you to follow and listen for similarities and differences. the first reconstruction. for generations enslaved and free blacks met oppression with resistance, with creative adaptation, sometimes mixed with resignation or even despair. eventually the north, for a variety of reasons which you know and which we may recapitulate shortly, the north for a variety of reasons challenged the social and racial order of the south. that's the civil war. the white south, indeed, fought back in a total war that lasted for four years.
southern blacks joined the fight on the side of the union and they helped ensure that the war became a struggle that would definitively end slavery. the confederacy was decisively defeated in the war and radical reconstruction but whites in the south, as you know, eventually regained the right to do pretty much anything they wanted when it came to race relations in the south. and that had been accomplished by the end of the 19th-century. that's the first reconstruction. a brief narrative description of the second reconstruction. for generations, southern blacks met oppression with resistance, creative adaptation, sometimes mixed with a measure of resignation and even despair. sound familiar?
eventually, now this is where it becomes a little different. eventually, southern blacks challenged the southern racial order. again, the white south fought back. but this time by means far short of total war. some northern whites and blacks and even a few white southerners joined this fight but it was mainly a fight of southern african-americans. again, the conservative white south lost the contest. they lost less decisively this time. there wasn't wholesale destruction and utter defeat as in 1865. the white south lost less decisively this time but more definitively and more lastingly and we're going to talk about that. so, in both cases you've got a backdrop of black people struggling for decades against oppression and then you got a challenge to the racial order in the south.
the first time it come from the north initially with southern blacks joining in. the second time it's southern blacks themselves that changed the order. in both cases the conservative white south loses. in the first instance the conservative white south rebounds and erases many of the fruits of the first reconstruction. the second time around more of the gains have proved permanent i'll argue as we go on. all right. now in more detail what can we say is true in both cases, in both reconstructions? first of all, as i've said two or three times now, in both instances a coalition of southern blacks and northerners proved decisive. in attacking, and listen to this, in attacking what many regarded as a southern problem.
the southern problem in the 1860's is slavery. and the southern problem in the 1950's and '60s is segregation and racial oppression. i say in each instance there's a coalition that formed. the earlier coalition is that the coalition that includes the union army, the republican party and free and enslaved blacks. the later coalition includes southern blacks and certain elements of the north, namely those few who actually came down south to participate in the movement. people who donated money to the movement should not be underestimated. legislators who passed the civil rights act. and most of the legislators who voted for those acts were from the north. and a president who was actually kind of a southerner. that is lyndon johnson.
we will talk more about him later. that is the coalition the second time around. in both reconstructions, there was a tremendous emphasis on the part of black people of obtaining education and of obtaining voting rights. very interesting parallels. the second reconstruction was emphasis of equality of education and desegregation of education. first reconstruction, of course, was a time when the issue was achieving any education at all. blacks having been deprived of it. in both instances blacks wanted the right to vote on the same basis as whites. in both reconstructions, the black church played a crucial role. now, you can argue and some people do argue about the exact extent of church leadership in the civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s.
the cliche has it it was a church-centered movement. but don't forget when we saw the montgomery bus boycott, it wasn't the ministers who started it. it was rosa parks and then the ministers came in very quickly on their heels and their participation was very much welcomed, their participation proved crucial. this moment gives the world the leadership of martin luther king and i'm taking nothing away from the clerical leadership when i say it was not necessarily the church that started the civil rights movement. let's remember who started the sit-ins. who did? students. college students in north carolina and eventually in dozens of other cities. the freedom rides were conducted by whom? >> [indiscernible] >> by congress of racial equality which started them and
then students, veterans of the sit-in movement who carried the freedom rides to completion. no church involvement there. again, i'm not trying to deprecate the church, i'm asserting it played a central role, but i don't want to attribute a monopoly of leadership, the church. in both reconstructions, the enthusiasm of white northerners started to wane, to decline when the price of black advancement rose. in the 1870's, we talked about the way in which just the need to police the white south became a price that was greater than many white northerners were willing to pay and that's one of the reasons the first reconstruction ended.
in more recent times, you find that when the inner-city riots of the '60s take place, the school bussing issue rises in the '70s, when whites realize there's a national problem here and a national price to be paid, the enthusiasms for whites, or at least the acquiescence of the whites in the north starts to decline. i want to draw a distinction here though between the two reconstructions. this time the federal withdrawal has been far less complete than it was in the 1870's. and today the south is different in ways, some of which we'll talk about in a few moments and many of which we don't have time to get into, to but i would say one of the most important ways in which the south is different is that blacks can vote now. we'll talk about why that is. in both reconstructions, racist violence played a crucial role. i don't need to tell you that in the 1870s, violence by the ku klux klan and other white
terrorists was crucial in rolling back the gains of the first reconstruction. and we saw in the films that in the civil rights movement, especially by the 1960s, again, you get very extreme severe white racist violence against blacks and their white allies. let's point out that the violence was less extensive in the '60s. as horrible as it was, it was not all out war and in fact it was counter productive to those who wanted to keep things racially as they had always been. it was the violence against civil rights demonstrators that furthers their cause. there's a reason, as you know, why the southern christian leadership conference after the stalemate in albany, georgia decided to go to birmingham. they went there because they were pretty sure, as the reverend shuttlesworth told
them, they would get a confrontation there that would dramatize to the world what was at stake and that's what happened. so fewer whites in the '60s who were taking up arms. 1860s it was millions in the confederate army. fewer in the 1960s by far to less effect. in fact the effect is the opposite of what they wanted. in both reconstructions northern blacks played an active role but southern blacks played the decisive role. why is that? give me one good reason why southern blacks are crucial both times? >> [indiscernible] >> hmm? >> more invested? >> they are invested in the outcome, but even more simple. >> [indiscernible] >> so the blacks in the south knew the way things worked on the ground. they knew what they were up against. >> [indiscernible]
>> yes, because the south is where black people lived. in the 1860's, almost all african-americans lived in the south. probably 95% of the population of blacks lived in the south and even in the 1960's a majority of blacks still lived in the south. slight majority. but, of course, it's going to be the southern blacks who play a decisive role because that's where the struggle is being carried out and that's where they live. many of them. ok. in both reconstructions -- and this is more of a sideline but a fairly interesting -- in both reconstructions you see that the diversity within the black community emerges in, if anything, a more vivid way and people outside the black community become aware of that. we talk about how in south carolina, for example, in the
first reconstruction there were differences between the urban mixed race free before the civil war population of african-americans and those newly freed blacks in the plantation districts. the latter wanting radical land reform and the former not being particularly interested in that. so there's just one kind of diversity within the african-american community that emerged in the first reconstruction. in the second, we see it all the time. we see the tensions between the southern christian leadership conference on the one hand and sncc on the other, which becomes more acute over time. we see differences between the northern black community and the southern black community in the 1960's. you heard john lewis who led the selma to montgomery march talking about the emergence of malcolm x as a national figure and how black folk like john lewis who had grown up in the
south in the christian church really didn't know what to make of malcolm x. so, in both of these instances you really see what was always out there, which is that the black community in this country is a diverse one. in both reconstructions the crucial demands were for equality and access and i talked about the fact that i liked the word access better than the word inclusion because to me inclusion has a little bit of a ring of wanting to get into the other fellow's game, whereas access somehow feels more neutral to me. it's about the idea that if there's a society that has institutions that has a government that's supposed to be for the people that everybody ought to have the same access to this.
in both reconstructions, and i have to be a little bit careful here -- the first reconstruction, if we talk about that portion of it which is the civil war, the first part of reconstruction, you get a real measure of black political power. up through the end of radical reconstruction, blacks have political power that they never had before. and then, again, in the second reconstruction, one of the fruits of the movement is, was intended to be and was, indeed, that blacks in the south won the right to vote on the basis of equality, a measure of political power. now, we need to add -- we need to hasten to add in both cases the power that blacks attained was in a political system that was still dominated by whites at least on the national level and on the state level. on the local level, little different.
there are many localities which were dominated by blacks in the first radical reconstruction and there are many localities in the united states now especially in the deep south where you have black majority, black office holding and so forth. the bad news is these places tend to be impoverished places, place where's you may have the political power but the monetary resources to make a difference are not abundant. in both instances, the first and second reconstruction, blacks ended up tied almost exclusively to a single political party. first time around it was the republican party, the second time around it was the democratic party. and there are those who argue that this is disadvantageous. i had a colleague, a black colleague at yale, who once said as many have that black america would be better off today if there were more black republicans because then the two parties would compete for the
black vote by speaking to black interests. he said we would be better off if there were more black republicans. the problem is that most of us don't want to be republicans, including me, he said. [laughter] i'm quoting him. there you have it. after both reconstructions, severe economic inequities remained. most of the black population after the first reconstruction remained poor, rural, agricultural laborers. today the picture is better, but it's still a case that one-third of the african-american population is mired in deep poverty. there was more of an attempt to address that in the 1960s but we haven't made a lot of headway.
now, i made the argument at the beginning that the gains of the second reconstruction have proved more lasting this time. i mean, after all, if we say we're talking about the '50s and '60s, if we say 1965 the high watermark of the civil rights movement how many years have passed is in then, about 50 years. after 50 years there's been no rolling back, for example, of the right of blacks to vote. in many ways blacks have more power and influence today than they ever had and the black middle class is bigger than it's ever been. so if we're going to have a retreat from reconstruction like we did the first time around it's taking an awful long time to happen in any decisive way. why is that? it's hard to answer definitively, but prejudice against blacks was less ingrained at the beginning of the second reconstruction than it was in the beginning of the first.
now that's an answer, but it also raises another question. why? why was white prejudice, as bad as it may have been, less intense in the '50s, 1950's and '60s than 100 years ago. the only quick answer i can give is that all the trends and the sciences and social sciences in the 20th century, certainly the mid-20th century were towards the repudiation of racism. that sounds like an axiom to you but we mentioned in the latter 19th century, people who claimed to be scientists and social scientists were saying that there are inherent racial differences, there are superior and inferior races inherently. that was something that a respectable person could say in a room like this and not be laughed out of the place. by 1950, you would be very hard put to find an academic person who would make that argument, very hard put, indeed. another thing that had happened,
which you mentioned already by the 1950s is that a lot of blacks had moved to place where they could vote. the great migration to the northern cities. and the fact that blacks could vote up there meant that in parts of the north white politicians had to listen to black people. and that proved helpful when it came time to vote on civil rights legislation in the 1960s. another reason the gains have lasted this time better than last time, i would argue, is a because president lyndon johnson was so politically skillful in this realm. in the realm of foreign policy he didn't have a clue, unfortunately, in many respects. but domestically, he had the vision to come up with a system that would come as close as humanly possible to being self-perpetuating. what he understood was that the vote was going to be key. we talked about this.
that if you want tou change the south, if you want to change the country, you got to ensure that black people have the right to vote. the only way to do that is by federalizing voter registration and he did that. he also figured out that if black people have the right to vote, it's going to become politically more difficult to take their rights away. the right to vote is a self-perpetuating right to a certain extent. because you have the right to vote, politicians are going to be more hesitant to take it away from you. doesn't mean they will never try. it just means your right to vote an impediment to being denied the right to vote. if you see that. that sounds silly when you hear it spoken, but it's true. i have more to say about that in a minute. another thing that was different in the second reconstruction is the world context. first of all there was really a world context. second that the cold war was going on in which the united
states and the soviet union were competing for influence in the world. the united nations had been created. as i mentioned to you before, i think, the general assembly of the united nations is a body in which every country is represented. and with the break up of the european empires after world war ii, you end up with dozens of countries represented in the u.n. that are places where people of color live. so it became less and less tenable for a president of the united states to try to get anything accomplished on the world stage or the united nations and have to explain why black people can't eat in a restaurant in a d.c. suburb. it was just too awkward. so, that was a difference. the emergence of visual media. there was media in the first reconstruction, newspapers.
but you may agree having looked at the films we saw in this class, that there's nothing like seeing film of a building burning down or somebody being beaten up or police dogs jumping on women and children or people being knocked down by fire hoses, the fact that the visual media existed in the 1950s and '60s augmented these other force s that i'm talking about. and finally, let's not - let's not forget the factor of black education. black americans in 1865, knew what they wanted and needed. they were just as smart then as they were in 1965, but they had been systematically deprived in most parts of the country of an education. by the 1950's, you got almost a century of black education that's taken place and education equips people to do things, all sorts of thing, including trying to change society. you'll remember that we talked
about this great irony of segregation. whites in the south had this brilliant idea that what they needed to do was to segregate blacks in every aspect of life. separate them off. push them off into the corner. one of the results of separation and neglect was a measure of black autonomy. if you have a black school with a black principal and black faculty, even if resources aren't what they should be and white people aren't paying attention to what's going on there because they don't really care, you that have ability in that school to teach all kinds of things that ultimately are going to become useful in the fight for equality. in a way that you wouldn't if white people were running
everything. so there's a way in which the segregators dug their own grave. remember the montgomery bus boycotts. alabama state college. joann gibson robinson was a professor there. she ran off those flyers calling for the boycott on the alabama state campus. the sit-in movement was conducted by college students emanating from black colleges all across the south. the segregators had created the infrastructure if you want, that black folk would use to attack segregation. now, i'm talking about the lasting gains of the second reconstruction. let me issue a few caveats. the first place -- now i have to preface this by saying i don't mean any of this in a partisan way. i'll be talking about republicans and democrats and i'll be talking about different political figures. i'm not trying to cast aspersions on anybody. you can like who you want.
i'm just talking about facts. johnson, president johnson, when he commanded his justice department to draw up the voting rights act or actually when the civil rights act of '64 was being drafted, he said we pass this, we democrats lose the white south for my lifetime and yours. and didn't happen quite as quickly as he said, but it pretty much has happened because the deep south is now pretty solidly republican. the deep south. but this part of the south, for example, virginia, not so much. virginia voted for obama twice, for example. texas, which is sort of southern and sort of not, but there are those who say within 15 to 20 years texas will be a solidly democratic state because of immigration from mexico.
i don't know whether that's right or wrong, but in the short term we have a predominantly republican south just like johnson said. you may think that's good or bad, but that's a fact. we still have as i mentioned the deep poverty of one-third of the black population and not a small percentage of the white population and other populations as well, but there's an intractable problem of poverty that we haven't figured out a solution for. we have continued de facto segregation. there are ways in which this society a still a segregated society. name one. one realm that's still largely segregated. housing and neighborhoods. dixon? >> churches? >> religious life in this country still largely segregated. whether you think this is a good or bad thing is an interesting question because most african-americans go to
predominantly african-american churches and i suspect aren't particularly interested in integrating because they don't see anything on the other side that's better than what they've already got. but yes, religious life is quite segregated. neighborhoods. caroline? >> schools. >> schools. yeah. schools. now, schools, legally are desegregated and there are many parts of the country where there's a lot of integration. my own children went to schools that were thoroughly integrated, but there are many entire school systems such as the one that my wife grew up in where it was de facto almost completely segregated because no minority folk lived there in that jurisdiction. that brings me to the realm of locality, local governments. the way this country is set up is that a lot of the day-to-day running of life takes place on the local level and schools are great examples. schools are run on the local
level. so if you live in a jurisdiction where everybody is basically the same race, you're not going to get integration. virginia is an extreme example of that because the so-called cities aren't even part of the counties. you got cities in this state that only have a few thousand people in them, but they are separate. ok. some of them have combined school systems with the county, some of them don't. the city of richmond, for example, the city of richmond has a school system that is impoverished, whereas the suburban counties have systems that more or less flush with money, and according to the supreme court there's no way to remedy that. in many ways we're still in a segregated society, but in many ways not. when i was your age, this college had only just started to
allow nonwhite students to enroll and here we are in a more integrated environment. so, again, i'm arguing that the change, changes of the second reconstruction have been more permanent. i don't want to sound like i'm wildly blindly optimistic and i don't see the problems that are still out there. one more caveat, if i may. and that is we're not sure where the supreme court was going. i was literally walking out of my office to come over here when my son showed me on his phone the headline that the united states supreme court -- now i've not had time to read the opinion or even the entire article in the "new york times" -- but apparently the supreme court has upheld the right of voters in the state of michigan to eliminate affirmative action in admissions to state colleges and
universities in the state of michigan. i may be misreading this and it was a 6-2 opinion which i don't understand how that even happened. so, i mention this at a considerable risk of botching up the details. but what i do know is that the supreme court under chief justice roberts has ruled against certain facets of affirmative action, they've ruled unconstitutional the central part of the voting rights act of 1965. now, that's remediable and congress can remedy that, but i'm not sure whether they are going to or not. now this creates a problem for me because at this point, in this course, which i've been teaching for almost 20 years now, i always used to say what i
said to you earlier, which is the gains of the second reconstruction, many of them, especially in the political realm are self-perpetuating. remember, i said the genius of johnson was he created a system where the right to vote perpetuates the right to vote. what i didn't take into account and the proof of that, by the way -- the voting rights act has come up for renewal four or five since 1965 and it passes by huge margins. republicans, democrats, northerner and southerner, most everybody voted to renew the voting rights act again and again, exactly for the reason i just explained. what i didn't take into account is that a supreme court one fine day would decide that that act is largely unconstitutional and i don't know where we're going on that. i do not anticipate that we're going to have a roll back in black rights and black welfare that will be anything like what
happened in the 1870's, '80s and '90s. this is inconceivable to me but i don't know where we're going with the supreme court. and i don't mean this as a partisan remark. yes, i do. yes, i do. yes, i do. because i believe in holding onto the gains. i think they are gains and we need to hold on to them. i regret some of the tendencies i see happening. ok. silver linings. nothing like i just said -- nothing like the roll back of the 19th-century is in the card, i think. here's the part where i may sound partisan and i don't mean to be. reagan and the bushes can win elections, but so can obama. in other words, it's an open
playing field and sometimes one side wins and sometimes the other, it's not one side rolling over the other. whites today will vote for black candidates. and obama is only one proof of that. more and more across the united states, you see candidates of color being elected by predominantly white constituencies and i have to think that this is a step in the right direction. race doesn't automatically trump other issues on a regular basis the way it used to in american life. for many americans there are a number of issues that are more important in their hierarchy of values than anything of issues of white and black. again i say there are important parallels between the two reconstructions, important differences and the most important of all is that the second reconstruction has largely stuck. i'll just close the formal part of this by saying that it's not
true that history repeats itself. but it is true that we can understand not only where we came from, but where we are now better by studying history, looking for parallels and looking for differences and that's what i've tried to do here. so i'm going to stop now and i'm going to ask whether there are comments or questions and i'll remind you that you're asked to raise your hand and give grace a minute to pop over to where you are and i'll call on you. this is your opportunity for instant fame. [laughter] tanner. >> i'm looking to ask you about a decision that just broke this morning but it does seem the court ruled that a state that citizens in a state could buy their own volition remove rights.
-- remove racial preferences from admission to public universities. do you think that will happen in certain sections of the country or do you think that they will generally be a clinging on to affirmative action policies? >> i think it will happen elsewhere, too. the state of california already went through a thing like this where affirmative action was basically eliminated, i understand, from the university of admissions. i don't want to get into chapter and verse, but i think basically a lot of people dislike affirmative action. if you put it to an up or down vote i think other constituencies will vote it down. i think there was someone on the back row. no? let's go to jake and then jeremy. jake. >> we've often talked about at
least in the latter parts of our semester, obviously the differences between the democrat and republican and where the transitions are made and, obviously, the black community is kind of consolidating themselves to mainly being aligned with the democratic party. so, i'll ask you two things. answer what you can. do you consider in the best interest of the black community to diversify their political interest in terms of the parties they favor and how you think that actually can come about? >> the question was would the black community be better off spreading their vote -- having their vote up for grabs by more than one party and do i think that will happen? how could it happen?
well, the first thing that would have to happen the republican party will have to find out what kind of party it's going to be because until we know that there's no way to answer the other question. right now the republican party consists of actually more than two factions, but let's over simplify and say there's a faction that people call the tea party, but that's probably too narrow a term that is very purist conservative and almost radically conservative and then there's a part of the republican party that's sort of a more centrist and more interested in the traditional form of politics which is compromising and getting the best deal that you can get. and as far as i can tell, these two factions have gotten to the point where they basically hate each other. unlike anything i've really seen since the democratic party in the '60s. and i don't know how that's going to play out and how it plays out will have a lot to do with what options blacks might
have politically, whether they might, some of them might have a potential home in the republican party. the other thing i would say is when people latch on to a political party they do it in part because of the programs of that party, the philosophy of that party, if you want to say it. but they do so also for cultural reasons. this is an old idea. historians have shown in 19th-century how people voted based on factors such as religious, religion and ethnicity and so forth. today there are cultural factors at work, as my black colleague at yale said, a lot of black folk look at the republican party and it just doesn't look like them. it just doesn't feel -- doesn't feel culturally right. j.c. watts who was the only black republican congressman from oklahoma, he served for three or four terms, i heard him on the radio the other day and he said -- let me see if i can get this right. he said there are a lot of
republican positions that a lot of blacks can sign on to. economy, government and he named this. he said -- listen to this -- he said white people for thanksgiving like to eat pumpkin pie. black people tend to eat sweet potato pie. and he said -- he, j.c. watts, said my problem is i'm a republican but my party keeps wanting to feed me pumpkin pie. now i'm not entirely sure what he meant by that -- [laughter] but i think he's talking in part about sort of ambience factors and cultural factors and hyper assertiveness on the part of the white leadership in the party. it's a comfort level i think he's talking about.
something has to happen for blacks to feel more comfortable. i'm going to say culturally comfortable with republicans before they are going to vote republican. the same question is out there for the latino community as far as i can see. ten years ago there was a real possibility or some republicans thought so that republicans could get a good chunk of the latino vote, but there's a big part of the republican party that's really, really key in restricting immigration from latin america. and not only keen on doing that but they make their keenness known in language and body language and whatever else that the latino community finds very offputting and much to the
dismay of those republicans who would like to see immigration reform, the republican party appears to have lost most of the latino vote for the next generation just by the vibes they give off, if i can use a technical term. so, i am not holding my breath until there's an influx of blacks into the republican party even though there are some republicans -- and sincerely care about the issues that blacks are interested in. one of them was congressman jack kemp, who ran for vice president. he's no longer alive now. by the time he had left politics he was increasingly isolated voice. i don't really see that black folk will perceive themselves having a lot of choice between the two parties any time soon. yes. >> two short questions. following up on the michigan state legislature passing the
law to ban affirmative action, is there any particular reason aside from state legislature's decision to do that, why they did that? and the second question, as you noted most black americans today do define themselves and vote with the democratic party. this follows up with a statement that i had from a previous history professor who noted in the 2010 mid-terms when you discount the incumbent black americans are re-elected to congress, all the new members who were black were republicans and allen west in florida was a prime example. so, it is a fair statement to say while all black americans are predominantly democrat more are running for congress and the senate, the only black member who is a republican -- >> the first black member of the senate in the 20th century was also a republican. so i really don't -- i don't know what to make of that.
the senate is a whole different ballgame from the house. the house, you know, represents -- except in sparsely populated states, members of the house of representatives are elected by the localities, you might say. by the way, one thing that's happened there, one form of, you might say affirmative action that's out there is drawing of congressional districts in a way to concentrate the black vote in a way that produces more black congresspeople and that's worked. we got 40-some blacks in congress now. partly because of the way districts are drawn. many republicans love that because if you concentrate most of the black vote in relatively few districts, it creates more conservative republican districts every place else. you got this odd combination of many black folk and many conservative republicans who
want to draw congressional districts in way that concentrates the black vote. your first question, the one thing i'm going say, it's not clear to me and, tanner, you may know this or somebody else may. i had the impression the elimination of affirmative action in the state of michigan was done by referendum. >> correct. >> so it's a people of the people not merely state legislature. that's going to happen elsewhere, i promise, unless i totally misread this opinion. sam. >> yes. >> you mentioned one of the major factors johnson wanted to push through like the civil rights act and voting rights act, america's position on the world stage with regard to race relations especially with the u.n. so, what were presidents before johnson like basically position or platform when leaders from predominantly black african-american nations or nation with any populations the
majority of colored populations, you know, visited the country and how -- did they address it all or ignore the elephant in the room? >> they ignored the elephant in the world. the impression of world opinion came into play with the kennedy administration. by the time johnson came in -- johnson didn't need to be moved as far as john f. kennedy did. not that john f. kennedy had anything against black folk. he had no visceral engagement with black issues. so for him the way the united states looked on the world stage loomed larger because -- he was president, after all, when the berlin crisis happened and the u2 crisis happened -- u2 was eisenhower.
i meant the cuban missile crisis happened. kennedy was very preoccupied with foreign policy for the three years he was in office and for him this was a big factor. world opinion. johnson didn't need so much to be pushed by world opinion because johnson for a variety of reasons really wanted to be the president who did for black americans what he saw franklin roosevelt having done for poor americans. johnson had his own reasons to push civil rights, not merely to make the united states look better on the world stage. other sam. >> i have a question, you talked a little bit about how democrats don't necessarily have to compete for the black vote, but do you think that obama is perceived as championing black
interests by african-americans today and kind of a hero in the way that civil rights leaders were or is that not really the case? >> i think obama is basically loved by black folk but your question raises an interesting topic because you talk about -- is the president representative of black interests and that raises the question of what black interests even are. when we talk about black interests and i do this too, we assume that all black folk want the same thing and have the same orientation. i'm not sure that i can give you a list of what ten black interests that would be definitive. if you take the affordable health care act, obamacare, that's going to benefit a lot of people, in my opinion, or let's say it's designed to benefit a lot of people who don't have a lot of money and black folk disproportionately don't have a lot of money. so, is that a black interest? no, not in a taxonomic way, but
it benefits black folk. i think what a lot of black folk want are things that are not really racially defined. i mean, black people want what a lot of white people want, which is a good school for their kids to go to. public transit. some would want that. i'm just trying to think of issues that on the face have nothing to do with race. and to me, that's what obama -- obama is trying through obamacare, for example, to make the society more fair. now, you can argue whether he's got the right approach or not. you can vote for obama. you can vote for mccain. i'm not talking about that. i'm saying that obama is trying by his lights, to make society more fair.
is that a black interest, per se? no, not per se, but it's a thing most black people want. to me, black america as a group, obamas are happy the in the white house. i think it's -- i mean, it wasn't long ago that michelle and the two kids in the white house were just mind blown. you go back two generations, they wouldn't even be there as guests, for god's sake. so yeah, i think obama is still quite popular among black americans. yeah? >> my question is going to shift the focus a little. i understand that terrorism played a prominent role in hindering black rights following the emancipation and the civil rours movement.
-- the second civil rights movement. what role has terrorism played in stymieing black progress >> you mean terrorism directed against black folks? >> [indiscernible] >> yeah, i don't think it's really a factor. i was thinking about that this morning, though, as i prepared to come to campus. some would say, well, what about trayvon martin? for example? you know, stuff still happens. but to me, as terrible as that was, and i don't know whether you mean this kind of thing or not, but trayvon martin, that's not terrorism. i mean, the guy who killed him, i don't know what his racial attitudes are, and you know, i'm not even going to speculate, but to me, as awful and unjustified as it was, it's not the same as a klansman killing somebody if they want to vote.
they're two terrible things but they're differently motivated. i don't really see terrorism of the kind that we saw in the 1870's and 1960's as a factor today. i'm not sure i'm being responsive. but that's what you're going to get. yeah, david. >> do you see sort of a parallel between the lives at the end of the 19th century and some of the lives today that operate through coded terms? in terms of when some states wanted to restrict voting, they went to literacy tests. and today their policies like stop and frisk and mandatory minimums, things that affect people of color, particularly black men, that seem to operate under a not racial context, but in the end they operate exclusively on those groups. >> let me say in the late 19th century, the language wasn't as coded as we might think.
the actual laws couldn't refer to race because they would have been in contravention of the 15th amendment, which said you can't deny the vote on basis of race, color, or previous condition. you couldn't pass a law or a constitution in mississippi that said negroes can't vote. couldn't do that, so you came up with an ostensibly nonracial scheme that could be used to the same effect. but if you look at the way those laws were discussed back then, the debates and the legislature such as they were, newspaper coverage of them, people were talking quite openly. they said, gentlemen, our entire
goal here is to remove the negro from politics. they made no bones about it. now, today, the thing about coded language is it's coded. so if you don't know whether somebody is talking in code or whether they're just talking that way. there are all kinds of evidence. there was an article in the "new york times" two weeks ago about efforts by, i'm not speaking partisanly now, but efforts by republicans in certain states to restrict the rights to alter access to the ballot, and the types of measures they were talking about were things like curbing or eliminating early voting. there's been a trend to allow people to vote, not only on election day, but you could come to the registrar ahead of time and vote. more and more states are doing this. now there are efforts in several states to cut back on that. now, i personally oppose cutting back on it. i personally think people should have more access to the ballot, not less, but i'm the first to admit it's not the same thing as what was done earlier in our history.
and there are those who would make the argument that if we have three opportunities for you to vote early, that's enough. you don't have to have seven. and a person like that might be totally sincere. it might not be a code word. it is a case that these efforts to restrict registration and to require that you present i.d. at the voting place and the like are almost always sponsored by republicans, and i think it's at least fairly possible that the thought there is the more in do, the fewer people are going to vote who don't want to vote for you. i think people want to curb the voting, people who want to vote for them.
i think that's what's happening. and yeah, it's probably coding. >> ok. >> i just have a question about de facto segregation and revitalization projects. it seems like that keeps on being the direction, cities are going into, especially coming from richmond where you have a black mayor and there's a bunch of revitalization projects that don't really seem to help the existing, i guess you could say members of certain communities, and why do you think that keeps on happening and why is it perpetuated? is it just the way it's marketed as revitalization or does it have to do with a sort of lack of, i guess, communication between white and black communities? >> i'm not going to get into the
details of the richmond example, but i have it in mind because you and i are both from there and familiar with it. i was talking before about the difficulty of defining what black interests are. what i really men to say is not all black people think alike. -- what i really mean to say is not all black people think alike. you know, big revelation. there are black folk who seriously believe that it's going to be better economically for the whole community and for the black community if you do a certain kind of revitalization of some, as they call it, a neighborhood downtown. build a baseball stadium and subsidize the washington redskins to come and have their training camp in, in this case, richmond. a person of good will and good
intelligence can genuinely believe that those things are going to benefit the community economically to the point that all will benefit. all will benefit. whereas the other point of view would be, hey, you're going to tear down my house and not give me another place to live. and that's a debate within the black community now. that's before you even get white people into it. so i'm not quite sure i'm answering your question, but it's just that in the '60s, people talked about black power. well, when you have power, you have to decide how to use it. p. well, when you have power, you have to decide how to use it. once you have it, there's going to be a debate within the community that holds the power what you're going to do with it. and what this black neighborhood wants here may not be what this one wants over here, may not be what the mayor wants over here. that's the trouble with defining
black interests. it was simple in the '60s. black interests were, get your foot off my neck. give me access, give me my -- give me my constitutional right to vote. that was a no-brainer. it's complicated now. sam. >> back in the line of the importance of racial violence. what do you think would be -- the civil rights movement would have turned out differently if whites in the south during the '60s and '70s did not re-sort to such brutal violence and resists civil rights in a much more passive manner? >> i used to give an exam question that was exactly that, in this course, and i'm not going to make you all do an essay at the end of the semester, but it was exactly that. what if law enforcement and the white public in the south had been more savvy in the '60s and
not gone beating on people? would the movement have come out different? and the answer i have in mind of that is this. that in the end, segregation and racial oppression depended on the threat of and the occasional use of violence. and just because you go to albany, georgia, and chief laurie pritchett doesn't go beating on people, and we saw that in the film, doesn't mean that you don't have a movement anymore, because what you do is you go to a place where the white power structure isn't as deliberative as all of that, where they're going to go beating on people, and that's exactly what the movement did. they picked birmingham because birmingham had a history of violence against black people. dozens of homes and buildings have been burned up over the years. bill kiner was in charge of
public safety there, a little bit complicated what the political situation was, but he was the long-term head of public safety there. he said you go to birmingham, you're going to get a confrontation. what i'm saying, you might not -- look at the freedom ride. it started where? washington, d.c. the first big city they got to was guess what? richmond. nobody got beat up. nothing much happened. they wanted to charlottesville and north carolina. eventually, they got to anniston, alabama. and you saw what happened there. so your counterfactual is a very provocative and interesting one, but it is really counterfactual, because in the end, in the end, the sg egregationists were goin to pick up the club, in the end.
nadia? >> i just wanted to bring the conversation around to education. when i was in elementary school and middle school, all i learned about african-americans was that they were slaved and then boom, one day, rosa parks didn't want to stand up and give her seat up. i was just wondering, do you think that -- do you think our education system has really given us the education that would help people to understand where a lot of the issues in the black community come from? for example, the president said, president obama said to condemn black anger without understanding its origin is to further widen the chasm between the races. do you think that giving american students a proper education would help to bring the american people closer together?
>> of course, i'm a great advocate of education. i think we ought to have good education, but i think there's a tendency in this country to believe that a proper education would have you to find that, is going to cure a lot of problems. there's a tendency to expect the schools to fix what's wrong with the country. i think that's far overblown. i do not think we do a good job of education in this country, by and large. i think we do a still worse job in the teaching of history. i will say that you all and two thirds of you are from the state of virginia, as am i. i could make the statement even if that weren't the case, what you get in school is better than what i got. because what i got was sort of what had been out there since 1880. with just a few of the rough edges sanded off. you don't get that. at least you know who rosa parks was. now, they may not teach you much
beyond rosa parks and martin luther king and malcolm x and then they move on to the next unit, but at least you got that. now, the president said when he was running for office that you're quoting from the speech of 2008, i think, that we saw in class. he said that what -- read me that quote again. >> to condemn black anger without understanding his origin is to further widen the chasm between the races. >> to condemn black anger without understanding his origins is to widen further the chasm between the races. i completely agree with that. i don't see it happening anytime soon, because most people don't want to hear about anger. they don't want to study about anger. and they don't want to study about stuff that's painful. one reason i'm in here doing this is because i think we have to do that and there are people
who like to come and listen to me talk here, but you try to take that out into the general public, or to the schools, i think the country has come a long way, but i think our appetite for hearing unpalatable truths is still very much attenuated, let's say. >> going down the avenue in richmond, you notice the several statues dedicated to civil war generals like jackson and lee. >> i did notice that. growing up there. >> do you think there will be a time where the structures are concepts dedicated to the confederate themes disappear or will they be acknowledge as pieces of history? >> i think the statutes will be there for a while. we're talking about robert e. lee, stonewall jackson, and those guys. there was an interesting controversy about back in the '90s some time, james river used
to flood all the time. they built a f>o÷st wall to,a the low-lying parts of the cities from being inundated. and the city or somebody put up the display of pictures of richmond's history. on the floodwall, and one of the pictures was a portrait of general robert e. lee, and there was a black leader who complained about this very vociferously and said you have to take that down. we're not glorifying robert e. lee. without getting into the merits of his complaint, you should have heard a lot of white people howl about that. they said, why are you going to take down that picture of robert e. lee? this is terrible, this is racial chauvini chauvinism. and i wrote a piece. i said, wait a minute. i said, i don't care about the picture of lee on the floodwall one way or the next, but you've got a predominantly black city
council in this city since 1977 or whatever, 20 years now, and in all that time, not only haven't they taken down the statues of confederate heroes on monument avenue, but they rebuilt -- you know where the lee bridge is, robert e. lee bridge? they tore down the old bridge and built a nice new one and they named it again the robert e. lee bridge. i said how much conciliation do you want from the black community. they just built you a new bridge and named it after general lee. i don't think the the confederate legacy is in danger here. now, there were two small bridges across the valley that were named after confederates. little ones that nobody even knows about. they call the first street, in popular promise, the 1st street and 5th street bridges are what people call them, but they were in fact the stonewall jackson and j.d. spirit bridge.
they did rename them after civil rights leaders. good for them, but there's plenty else named after stonewall jackson and robert e. lee. people complain, they say, i would just as soon not have that. i think general lee will be there when they carry my coffin past there on the way to the cemetery. i think he'll still be there. because i don't think -- i don't think those who have power are vindictive, i think they're very tolerant, nice people. and by the way, the city council -- the predominantly black city with a predominantly white city council. that's another argument for what i said before. people are voting less and less along racial lines. including black people. they'll vote for a white person they think is good very, very
readily. [ inaudible question ] >> i don't know the detail, but i was in the boy scouts in virginia and we were in the robert e. lee council. i still have that uniform. it says robert e. lee. they don't call it that anymore, right? >> they took it off. >> they took it off, okay. well, you know, it's interesting the way we're still debating these sort of cultural issues after 120 years. we're still talking about commemorating the civil war. all right, we just had a 150th anniversary. we're having it, but still, rr not even passed. >> one last question. somebody was talking about the blacks of today, and i guess this is probably an obvious question, but would you say that blackness during the civil
rights movement was much more collective? i guess it was. i guess now people try to -- it's become something that is definitely much more broken down into cultures, you know. >> i don't mean to make a pun, but the issues were more black and white then. there was a black community who had a common set of issues. i mean, a common set of issues. you could be a college president in the south, or you could be a janitor. and you faced some of the same problems because you were black. >> even black -- >> a different new york, but a different set of problems. it's all relative. i'm just saying the issues were -- they seemed more straightforward then. maybe they were, but they seemed so. i think most of